Note: Where available, the PDF/Word icon below is provided to view the complete and fully formatted document
 Download Full Day's HansardDownload Full Day's Hansard    View Or Save XMLView/Save XML

Previous Fragment    Next Fragment
Thursday, 14 March 1968

Mr HANSEN (Wide Bay) - I wish to pay a tribute first to the late Harold Holt. However much we on this side of the House may have disagreed with some of his policies and attitudes, 1 do not think any of us would deny that he was a man most diligent in his duties and most courteous to all honourable members who approached him. I join with all Australians in extending to his widow my deepest sympathy. That a man holding the highest position in the land should be lost under such tragic circumstances is more distressing than the fact of death itself. Most of us live in the face of death. The mortality rate amongst members of Parliament is proportionately higher than in most other sections of the community. On this, the first opportunity since this unfortunate accident, I join with other honourable members and the Governor-General in expressing my regret at the death of Harold Holt.

In his Speech opening the Parliament, the Governor-General would have the people of Australia believe that this is a new Parliament. Perhaps there are a few new faces. During the weeks and months preceding the opening of the Parliament there was a good deal of propaganda designed to convince the people that there would be a big new deal. But having listened to the Governor-General's Speech most honourable members will agree that this is the same old Arm, albeit with a few new faces for various reasons, and that we can expect very little more, if any more, than we got in the past.

I was pleased to hear the right honourable member for Fisher (Mr Adermann), a former Minister for Primary Industry, refer to the development of water resources. This is a matter that must be uppermost in the minds of those honourable members who represent the southern States of Australia. I appreciate that the former Minister for Primary Industry (Mr Adermann) has urged that additional money be made available for the development of water resources. The reference by the GovernorGeneral to an expenditure of $50m over 5 years for this purpose is the same story as was told by the late Prime Minister in his policy speech in 1966. Like the right honourable member for Fisher, I, too, hope that the Government will have a change of heart on this matter. I am sorry that the right honourable gentleman was not able to persuade the Government to act while he was a member of the Cabinet. I know that he had an interest in this matter and that he was given a good deal of information about it, particularly the Kolan project. I am particularly interested in this project. It is not in my electorate but the people of my electorate stand to benefit from it. I concede everything thai the right honourable gentleman said about the project. It will bring some form of stability to an industry in a proven and closely settled area. The farms are already there. We do not need pilot farms to see what can be grown. We know what can be grown. From bitter experience we know the difference between producing in a drought year and producing in a year of good rains. We know also the difference between crops grown under irrigation and crops not grown under irrigation. In 1964, with irrigation available, a farm of 127 acres harvested 100.9 acres of cane at a rate of 31.1 tons to the acre, giving an aggregate harvest of 3,143 tons. Next door a farm of 130 acres, not irrigated, harvested only 30.9 acres at a rate of 20.2 tons to the acre, making a total harvest of only 629 tons. That second farm was under the same ownership as the first, so there would be no difference in management skill.

Due to drought this area has become irrigation conscious. In 1953 there were only 12 bores in the Fairymead mill area. In 1965 there were 312. The failure of surface water supplies meant additional costs because supplies in the underground basin declined. All these matters have been placed before the Government for its consideration. I regret that the Nogoa scheme was given precedence over the Kolan scheme as I am personally interested in the Kolan scheme. Nevertheless, I hope that the day is not very far off when finance will be made available by the Commonwealth Government to the State of Queensland for the Kolan scheme. On that occasion I shall look for the support of the honourable member for Fisher.

The people of Australia were subjected to various types of propaganda in the weeks following the unfortunate disappearance of the late Prime Minister, Mr Harold Holt, but after hearing statements made by the new leader of the Liberal Party most people were wondering whether they were going to get a new deal. People had heard him speak so much of the need to reform social services that members of the Australian Pensioners League said to me: 'This new Prime Minister does not seem to be a bad chap. Do you think he will give us a better deal than we were getting before?' I replied that we would have to wait and see. The Australian Pensioners League wrote a letter to the Prime Minister in regard to social services. His reply was received on the eve of or just after the Higgins by-election and it was to the effect that an increase in pensions would be a matter to be considered in the Budget. It was the usual reply that is given. It was the same reply as has been given over the years by the Government.

Usually the motion for the adoption of the Address-in-Reply to the GovernorGeneral's Speech is moved and seconded by members making their maiden speech. On this occasion there were no maidens on the Government side, so perhaps we can put the event in the 'encourage' class. But I would point out to the honourable members who moved and seconded the motion that this does not mean much in the long run because even hot favourites are beaten. There probably would not have been a hotter favourite for the role of Prime Minister than the Treasurer (Mr McMahon), but he was nobbled by the Leader of the Australian Country Party and Minister for Trade and Industry (Mr McEwen) before he even put his nomination in.

Mr Curtin - What did he say?

Mr HANSEN - He said that the Country Party would not serve under Mr McMahon as Prime Minister.

Mr Cope - What made him say that?

Mr HANSEN - This is a question that I, and I suppose other honourable members, have been asked everywhere. People have said: Why did this happen? Why does the leader of the Country Party not like the Treasurer? Why does the Country Party not like the Treasurer? What have they against Mr McMahon? We can only speculate. Perhaps some of us have been given the wrong information. One newspaper suggested that the reason was an association with a certain reporter. This is ridiculous. You, Mr Speaker, no doubt have friends who are presidents of Labor Party branches. I do not suggest that because of this you should be expelled from the Liberal Party. Though people may have differing views on politics, in true friendship this does not matter one way or the other. So I do not think that this would be the reason. However, there has been so much speculation about this matter that the Minister for Trade and Industry, in justice to himself and to stop this speculation should inform the House why he would not serve under the Treasurer if that gentleman were appointed Prime Minister. He should inform the House why he feels that the Treasurer is not competent to be Prime Minister but is competent to be Treasurer.

Mr Cope - He has no striped pants.

Mr HANSEN - He has pyjamas. I think it would stop a lot of speculation if a direct answer were given. There must be a direct answer. However, I wish to make the point that even hot favourites are beaten, sometimes even before they get to the starter.

The Governor-General made no reference at all to education. This is. an item which is exercising the minds of the majority of Australians, particularly those with children and grandchildren. I am pleased to see that it is still exercising the mind of the former Prime Minister, Sir Robert Menzies. He has commented on the lack of funds provided for education and has pointed out how the States are falling behind in their efforts to provide better education. We frequently read references in the Press to the fact that education is a lottery and that the standard of education available depends upon the area in which people live and even on the income of the parents. I do not believe that we in Australia can afford to waste the talents of any girl or boy who has the ability but not the finance to go ahead and further her or his education. We must educate all our children to build up our country in the future. No mention is made of higher education in the GovernorGeneral's Speech.

The Governor-General did indicate that his Government was negotiating an agreement with State governments to help mothers who are not eligible for benefits under the existing Social Services Act but who are in need. He said that the Commonwealth was prepared to meet half the cost of State expenditure in this field. The Department of Social Services has seen fit to give assistance to women in need, particularly those who have not passed the 6 months qualifying period for a deserted wife's or widow's allowance. But in other fields where the State governments are giving assistance - mostly under legislation set up by Labor governments - the Commonwealth denies any responsibility. I know that the previous Minister for Social Services was sympathetic towards some of these cases and he was trying to reach some sort of an agreement in the matter. I would not like to see the position arise where the Commonwealth will meet half of what the States are already spending if the States are not prepared to give what they are giving at the moment. The application of the means test is enough trouble already.

There is a section of the community which is being deprived of social service benefits under both State and Commonwealth legislation. These people are being deprived of benefits not to the detriment of themselves but to the detriment of their children. I refer to the unmarried mothers where the fathers have absconded and left the women to rear the children. In all these cases the Department of Social Services claims that because the children were born out of wedlock the Department has no responsibility towards them. I do not deny for one minute that the fathers ot the children should have to contribute towards the upkeep of the children, but you, Mr Speaker, and other members of the House who have had cases of this nature brought before them, know full well the difficulties associated with trying to track down a delinquent father. He moves from job to jog and if an order is taken on his wages he is not there the next day. The responsibility for raising children therefore is left with the mothers. Perhaps a woman in these circumstances has made a mistake in the social scale of events, but why should she be penalised for the rest of her life? In all probability if she had money she would not have been in this situation as she could have afforded an abortion; but because she has no money she has to bear and rear these children and be a social outcast. I take my hat off to such women. The children are not recognised as dependants if the mother is in receipt of a widow's pension already. A particular case that I would like to mention is that of a widow of an ex-serviceman, who had three children tj her husband. After his death, she began an association with a man, perhaps through loneliness. Eventually he left her. She had a child to him. She has not been able to find the father of the child whom she has reared for 6 years. The eldest child by her marriage will be 16 years of age soon and wants to leave school. The widow will not be 45 until another 12 months more have passed. Her daughter will be 16 before then. Unless the daughter stays at school until the widow turns 45, the mother will no: be eligible for a widow's pension for another 5 years and still would have to rear tha boy of 6 years of age. I could mention other cases. I have mentioned this one to illustrate the narrow borderlines that are being drawn. I sincerely hope that some arrangement can be entered into between the Commonwealth and the States. When a widow has suffered hardship, she is not the only one who has made sacrifices; other members of the family must have made sacrifices. The widow to whom I referred has used part of her widow's pension for the upkeep of her little boy. Honourable members, who have had experience in dealing with such matters, will realise that some action must be taken. Widows cannot be treated in the way in which they have been treated over the years.

In the short time left to me I would like to touch on a matter that has concerned most Queenslanders in recent times. I refer to the invasion of territorial waters by fishing vessels and particularly ho the damage done lo the Great Barrier Reef by crews of such vessels. The Barrier Reef is one of the natural wonders of the world. It can be despoiled and lost to the people of the future is some action is not taken now. Foreign prawning vessels are fishing in the waters of the Gulf of Carpentaria. As long as they keep away from the shore line they are within international waters and the Government has no jurisdiction or control over them. I was surprised to read in the Press last week of a Japanese plan for cray fishing. Three Japanese firms are forming partnerships with Australian firms to engage in crayfishing in the Gulf of Carpentaria and in the Arafura Sea. My knowledge of crayfish in those waters is that they follow the reefs and are found in the shallower and warmer waters. The natives of Papua and New Guinea and of Thursday Island fish for crays along the reefs. By catching crays the natives are able to supplement their incomes and also their diet. 1 should like to know whether these firms have been given approval to operate. If they have, does the fact that a partnership has been formed with an Australian firm give the Japanese firm authority to operate within territorial waters? Does such approval mean that the Japanese firms will be recognised as Australian firms? Will any restriction be placed on the catch? I point out that the Tasmanian Department of Fisheries saw fit to place a quota on the catch of licensed persons catching crayfish off Tasmania. What conditions will be laid down to ensure that these crayfishing operations will not be another form of selling our assets overseas without leaving anything for our own people in the future? Our natural resources and minerals are being sold overseas. The Governor-General's Speech mentioned the large scale export of minerals. His words sounded very well. While permitting the export of minerals, the Government should ensure that some of the basic industries associated with the processing of minerals are established in Australia, thus giving employment to present and future Australians and expanding the population in isolated areas. Small countries that we consider are not as advanced as we are have insisted on the developer who is exploiting their mineral resources for the benefit of overseas interests, be they private or governmental, establishing some industry so that the future citizens of the country will have some stake in its mineral wealth and will not be left only with memories and holes in the ground.

The north has been exploited by foreigners too often in the past. Perhaps the goldfields of our north were not exploited by foreigners, but I draw the attention of honourable members to the present plight of some previous goldfields in the north. I instance Croydon. My friend, the honourable member for Leichhardt (Mr Fulton), knows only too well of the booming goldfields in his electorate at the turn of the last century. Up to a dozen hotels flourished in individual mining centres then; today ruins and memories remain and only a few goats wander about the streets. I do not suggest, for one moment, that the honourable member represents only goats; he does not seek to. He represents electors. I make that point quite clear in case any electoral distribution commissioners are listening. We do not want to see happen in the future what happened in the past.

I have mentioned a few matters that were omitted from the Governor-General's Speech and some matters that were included. I do make this point: People have been deluded into believing that we would have a new government with new thinking and new ideas. Certainly we have a new Prime Minister, but the old establishment is still behind him. If certain people thought that a change would take place they have been deluded very greatly by the Speech delivered by His Excellency the Governor-General.

Suggest corrections